February 1, 2018 / 6:54 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Roche expects 2018 profit to grow faster than sales

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BASEL, Switzerland, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche forecast on Thursday that profit would rise faster than sales in 2018 as it gets help from U.S. tax changes and as new drugs for multiple sclerosis, cancer and blood disorders offset revenue declines from older medicines.

Roche expected sales to stay flat or grow at a low-single- digit rate, matching its 2017 forecast. Core earnings per share were targeted to grow at a high-single-digit pace, helped by the U.S. tax reform.

Chief Executive Severin Schwan said he was increasingly confident that Roche can compensate for the revenue hit from biosimilar rivals and maintain strong margins.

Sales increased in 2017 by 5 percent to 53.3 billion Swiss francs ($57.14 billion), hitting the 53.2 billion franc average estimate in a Reuters poll of analysts.

IFRS net income in 2017 dropped to 8.8 billion Swiss francs from 9.7 billion francs a year earlier as it took charges for the impairment of goodwill and intangible assets as well as amortisation of intangible assets.

It proposed raising its dividend to 8.30 francs per share, below the average of 8.45 francs in the poll. It said it aimed to raise it again this year. ($1 = 0.9328 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)

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